The Oberlin pioneer family circle suggests a greater degree of equality among the characters than the pyramidal shape typical in earlier decades. Indeed, the father in the Oberlin family bends his knees to embrace his children, decreasing the extent that he towers over the rest of the family. In keeping with earlier pioneer family monuments, the mother leans gently backward into the family circle, maintaining its core. But in a gesture toward feminism’s growing influence, their teenage daughter leans slightly outward to embrace the future. Their young son bends his knees, mimicking his father’s posture, and appears ready to leap outward at the first opportunity.
Public reactions to Felten’s initial proposal were mixed, but many skeptics apparently agreed with Ira Laidig: “When I first saw it I didn’t like it, but the longer I sit here the better it looks.”1 What initially felt to many rural Kansans like too much of a departure from established pioneer family imagery soon grew more comfortable.